Now that Lake Ozark has made it official policy they’re going to be responsible for the maintenance and care of more than 250 residential sewer grinder pumps in the city, officials will have to work at finding answers for more than a dozen issues ranging from legal questions to budgeting concerns.


Now that Lake Ozark has made it official policy they’re going to be responsible for the maintenance and care of more than 250 residential sewer grinder pumps in the city, officials will have to work at finding answers for more than a dozen issues ranging from legal questions to budgeting concerns.

Public Works Director Matt Michalik began compiling the list as a way to get a clear indication of what type of decisions the Utility Commission and Board of Aldermen needed to make if the city decided to stand by its decision of servicing private grinder pumps.

“It’s the first dozen things that popped into my mind,” Michalik told the Utility Commission, noting that the issues could be far more extensive - in scope and cost for the city.

Easements, accessibility, replacing landscaping and adding staff to keep up with maintenance are all issues that will have to be addressed, Michalik said.

As it is, in the last 20 months Michalik estimates the city has spent more than $112,000 replacing sewer equipment on private property.

Michalik expects that number to rise dramatically as the city’s 273 residential grinder pumps reach their 15-year life expectancy and have to be replaced.

Depending on whether or not the city pays for replacing landscaping, can add a further strain on the city’s annual budget.

McClure Engineering’s Jeff Schug, who is putting together Lake Ozark’s comprehensive sewer study, said budgeting for landscaping is one of the hardest things because it can vary anywhere between a simple rock path to a multi-tiered retaining wall with thousands of dollars worth of trees.
“I don’t envy the decision you have to make,” Schug said.

Schug said he has municipal clients who do it both ways: cities that pay for maintenance of grinder pumps and other cities that leave that responsibility to the homeowner.

Either way, Schug stressed consistency.

“At the end of the day, it’s the same people paying for the work,” he said, either the homeowner paying for the maintenance costs themselves or through their utility fees.

City Administrator Dave Van Dee said each issue and concern would be addressed one at a time.

Van Dee proposed drafting a comprehensive plan to present at the Utility Commission’s next meeting. Along with answering many of Michalik’s questions, the plan would essentially lay the foundation for the city’s new policy.

“Everything is going to be documented so five years down the road when we pull it out, we’ll understand our motivation for making that decision,” Van Dee said.

Public Works Director Matt Michalik’s list of issues

1. Is it legal for the city to expend public funds to benefit a private property owner?

2. Repairing Landscaping: Will the city be responsible for repairing and restoring landscaping?

3. Easements: The easement law change of 2008 will need to be thoroughly examined. This new law does not allow blanket easements anymore. The city WILL need easements to do a pump replacement or answer a service call.

Michalik said a lot of times, crew don’t know where line is at until it breaks. The city is working to fix that by marking lines as they go, but it will take several years until all lines are marked.

4. Accessibility: Most of the pump stations are inaccessible by truck or equipment should the need arise.

“No thought was given at some places,” Michalik said, noting some pumps are located off steep hills, under decks and even one that’s only accessible by boat. “I would require driveable access for the service guys.”

5. Indemnification: How will the city be indemnified if property is damaged or destroyed?

6. Future Man-power and Equipment: Will the city be able to afford more staff and service vehicles in the future?

With 600 empty lots in Osage National, Michalik said the room for expansion is great - and so is the work load.

“All of those houses would require a grinder pump,” he said.

7. Design Guide: The guide would outline everything the city requires in a simple-to-use manual for homebuilders so that way they know exactly what it takes to meet the city’s codes to hook up to the city’s utility system.

Would need to be done by an engineer.

8. Spare Parts Storage: The Public Works Department is currently using the old police department to house spare pumps and parts. If the building is demolished, Michalik questioned where the department would move.

The street shed is already full, he pointed out and you can’t store sewer parts next to the water tower.

“Because, you can’t,” Michalik said. “It’s unsanitary.”

9. Formal Training: Is the city willing to send Public Works employees to formal electrical training? Without training, Michalik said it could be a liability.

10. Codification: The city utility code was written based on the fact the city WOULD NOT be taking care of these pump stations. A few conflicts will have to be addressed now that the city has reversed its policy.

11. Financial Consequences: With the city taking on the responsibility of more pumps in the future, what will be the overall financial consequence to the city?

12. Relocation of Panels: Panels will need to be relocated from homes and structures to free-standing posts next to the wet-wells because of the risk of fire from lightning strikes.

Michalik said this was one of his biggest concerns, as he showed pictures of fire-damaged panels to the Utility Commission.

“What’s the city’s liability?” he questioned.